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May the sacrifice of our military never be forgotten

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At 2 a.m., my cell phone rang.

The voice on the phone said, "We just landed and I should be at the base in two hours."

The news my family had waited seven months to hear had finally come.

Our Marine was back on U.S. soil, having landed at the Marine Corps Air Base at Cherry Point, North Carolina.

After checking weapons there, buses would bring the Marines to Camp LeJeune, a 45-minute drive, to meet their anxiously awaiting families.

Our Marine had spent seven months as a weapons platoon commander in the Anbar Province of Iraq.

About 4 a.m., the buses arrived to "welcome home" signs, cameras flashing and smiling faces of moms, dads, wives, sisters, brothers, children and friends.

Seeing his face for the first time since October was an indescribable joy!

I thanked God for keeping our Marine safe through two deployments in the Anbar Province of Iraq.

That same week in April, another Marine arrived at his home in Wisconsin.

Lance Corporal Dean Opicka, was escorted off the arriving plane by Marine honor guards in a flag draped coffin.

LCpl Opicka had made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation’s freedom.

Instead of a welcoming hug, his parents received a folded American flag and appreciation from a grateful nation.

At his burial service, Dean’s younger brother, Darren, also a Marine, who has served two combat missions to Iraq, stated he and his brother were both proud to be brothers and to serve in the United States Marine Corps, "to serve the great nation, to serve an outstanding tradition and freedom…Dean’s passion and what he believed in led him to the greatest sacrifice for freedom—his life, which he gave honorably." (Quoted from Greenbaygazette.com, by Andy Nelesen, April 30, 2008).

As Memorial Day approaches, and families celebrate the holiday with cookouts, parties, picnics and fun activities, may we take a few moments to remember those, like LCpl. Dean Opicka, who throughout our 232-year history have given their lives in war to secure the freedoms we enjoy today.

Traditional observances of the holiday have diminished over the last 50 years following the end of World War II.

Memorial Day parades and services in cities across our nation have steadily decreased in numbers.

Fewer families seem to be affected by war today than in the early 1900’s when 18 and 19-year-old young men were signing up to fight for the freedom of our nation.

The entire country was affected and it seemed like everybody knew a soldier who died while serving his country.

Thankfully, in the current war on terror, fewer casualties are experienced because of improved military weapons and different strategies of war.

Currently 4,077 of our service members have made the ultimate sacrifice in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Every life given in the pursuit of defending our liberties deserves tribute from those who live to enjoy it.

Americans should never forget the sacrifices made by brave men and women who died while serving in war.

This Memorial Day, take time to thank a veteran, current military personnel and military family members.

Fly the American Flag proudly.

Pray for our nation’s political leaders and troops serving to defend our freedom.

Make a pledge to uphold the freedoms granted in our Constitution and find ways to improve life in local communities. May the sacrifice of our military never be forgotten.

Susan McConnell

Mother of a Marine


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